Top Kiwi rally pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard made it two wins from two starts in their Hyundai i20 AP4 rally car at the International Rally of Whangarei which took place 14 and 15 May as the second round of the 2022 New Zealand Rally Championship.
Paddon and his Cromwell-based Hyundai New Zealand Rally team delivered a near-perfect performance, with a clean sweep of fastest times through all 18 special stages and new stage records set for 14 of them.
Paddon praised his crew for their teamwork and strategy with tyre planning and management throughout the two-day rally. He was also happy with most of the small mechanical tweaks implemented on the Hyundai i20 AP4 car following the season opener in Otago in April, saying there were a couple of readjustments to be made.
The pair are preparing for their return to European rallying for the first time in more than two years. Their first European rally of 2022 has been confirmed as Rally di Alba on 24 and 25 June, a tarmac rally which is part of the Tour European Rally (TER) series and the Italian Rally Championship.
Paddon will be behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 R5 rally car in Alba as part of his preparation for his first FIA World Rally Championship-2 event in Estonia in July where the Hyundai i30 N Rally 2 car will be run by the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team, marking a significant milestone for the New Zealand-based crew.
The preparation and effort by Paddon and the team have put in for the win in Whangarei is all part of getting into the best possible form for international competition. But the five-time New Zealand Rally Champion isn’t easing up on his goal of winning his sixth rally title - the Hyundai team will still be contesting the South Canterbury Rally on 18 June before flying out of New Zealand for Italy the next day.
"It was a good weekend and a step up collectively for us as a team in terms of how the car performed and our strategy and teamwork. We ticked a lot of boxes, particularly as we get ready to head back overseas, getting into the rhythm of this two-day event format where strategy, tyre planning and management are so important. These events offer different challenges to one-day rallies like the South Canterbury Rally coming up next on our schedule.
"In terms of a rundown for our offshore events, it was great with John and I working smoothly together in the car.
"The biggest challenge over the weekend was probably sweeping the roads, with a lot more gravel on the stages than we’ve been used to over past years. The morning stages were like driving on marbles and trying to generate a bit of grip where there was no grip. Once the roads were swept for the afternoon runs, things were a bit easier with a clearer line. But we really have no complaints; it’s good fun opening the roads and sliding around a bit more than usual.
"We have a few refinements to the car before South Canterbury which is a fast rally. We don’t have the most power out of all the competitors, that’s probably our Achilles heel, so we have some work to do. It’s important we do our best to collect maximum championship points again in Timaru.
"It was great to see lots of spectators out enjoying the rally action over the weekend in sunny conditions all weekend. Friday night at Pohe Island was particularly impressive to see so many people enjoying the rally action. There’s a whole Rally New Zealand vibe coming through which we all enjoyed.
"This win was a bit special for a different reason with my grandfather, Bruce Paddon, having passed away on Thursday, so this one was for Grandad."
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Winmax Brakes, Gravity Internet, Pak N’ Save, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Mike Greer Homes, Bartercard, Accessman, Sign It Signs, Carters Tyre Service and Provident Insurance.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.